An Urban Sports park: is it something for Kennispark?
He calls in Eindhoven from the largest skate park in the Netherlands that is currently being renovated. Yet another park, because Urban Sports is ‘popular’, to say the least. Jimmy Hermans is co-owner of CityLegends, an Urban Sports & Culture community that has been around for less than a year. They are already active in dozens of cities across Belgium and the Netherlands. Germany and England are still to follow. But what exactly is Urban Sports? Why is it an added value for a city or area such as Kennispark? And would it be something for Kennispark?
Urban Sports is not just about sports
Hermans was a skateboarder for years: “It has been 10 years since I stopped, but skateboarding remains the most well-known Urban Sports variant for everyone.” Freestyle soccer, freerunning, longboarding, 3×3 basketball, calisthenics: these are just some of the disciplines that comprise Urban Sports. Hermans: “Actually, this does not do sufficient justice to Urban Sports, because it is a broader respected term that stands for so much more than just sports on the street. In many disciplines there is also a mix of art, music and dance. It’s the cultural expression and the creativity that matters, and much less the competition as many people sometimes think.”
Making it accessible
So it’s not just about sports. It’s not a scene as many people still think. Municipalities also seem to increasingly see the added value and importance of Urban Sports: “When we started with the CityLegends community, many municipalities did not really know what urban was and what to do with it. To bring our sport closer to the municipal world, we started talking to the urban scene and policy makers as much as possible. For example, knowing how they look at public spaces is very important to us. That’s how we determine how to incorporate that into a policy plan, so that municipalities know what they can do with it. We are now making ‘Urban City Scans’ for some municipalities. We speak with the entire community in that municipality to identify needs. We then translate this into a plan that sports, culture or city marketing and area teams can work with. For eight cities we are now in the process of making such an Urban City Scan.”
The recently launched CityLegends app:
It transcends the area itself
Today’s skate parks go far beyond the traditional metal skate parks of the 1990s, Hermans says: “You can integrate nature so beautifully into an Urban Sports park and combine it with concrete and metal objects. That is also the uniqueness of Urban Sports, it cuts across so many different domains; youth work, health, welfare, sustainability, nature.” As an example Hermans mentions the new skate park on the Industrieplein in Hengelo: “There you can see very nicely how the different disciplines, culture and nature go together. This fusion of all those things is what it’s all about when you build a community. It also gives much more color to a city. The city comes to life through urban. Urban Sports is also very big in Hengelo and Enschede. You can see that very clearly by the number of skate shops. If there are any, there is almost certainly a large community behind them.”
Freerunning is currently one of the fastest growing disciplines:
So Urban Sports is gaining more popularity: “It’s not just the skate parks that are getting busier. Even at the Olympics we see the sport is growing. During the Olympics in 2016, ‘3×3 Basketball’ attracted the most TV viewers within the group of 15 to 35 years.” The interest is also visible online: “Via Google Trends we see that there are more frequent and broader searches on different disciplines. Freerunning and callisthenics seem to be the fastest growing sports.” Also very striking is the growth in Amsterdam: “A study by IPSOS even showed that Amsterdam has more Urban athletes than soccer players! I think that says it all. The results of this have yet to be presented, so I can’t say very much more about it yet.”
According to Hermans, the Drienerlolaan area has the highest potential for a skate park:
Freedom and creativity
But why is it so popular? According to Hermans, the explanation can largely be found in ‘the feeling of freedom’: “You can decide for yourself where, with whom, when and how you want to fill it in. You’re not tied to soccer training sessions that start at three o’clock in the rain. It is the free spirit that young people like and find attractive. I also think that for some of the young people it is a way of setting themselves apart from traditional forms of sport.” With the brand new CityLegends app, the community only seems to get bigger and more robust: “On the app is actually the real community. You can challenge each other there via whatsapp or other channels or ‘wow spots’ if you’ve done a cool trick for example. And that is exactly what we are all about. It’s really your creativity that is being judged, not how many goals you score.”
And the investment?
Building a park is more complex than a regular soccer field or playground equipment: “A developer must have a strong background in the urban scene. For example, you need to know exactly how you leave a corner with your skateboard or how big the jumps are in freerunning. If you don’t know this, life-threatening situations arise. Nine Yards Skateparks and Skateon are good companies to turn to for this information.” A large park can easily cost more than 400,000 euros: “You need an entire soccer field for a skate park like that. The smaller parks can also be realized for much less.” What you get in return is very much, emphasizes Hermans: “A place fully integrated into nature, suitable for multiple disciplines, it lasts a long time and often several close communities arise. But what you absolutely must not do is saving on materials.”
The area around the Grolsch Veste offers opportunities for freerunners:
Opportunities for Kennispark? Yes, there are!
Hermans also sees many possibilities for Kennispark: “At the moment I see the Drienerolaan as the most suitable place for a large-scale park. I’m thinking of a combination of BMX, skating, stepping and a calisthenics course.” For the area around the Grolsch Veste, he sees many options for freerunners. Especially behind the station, right after you walk under the bridge: “Think of small ramps or blocks in combination with bars you can swing on. It is also close to a train station, good accessibility is always essential!” In short: Kennispark appears to be the ideal place for Urban Sports, “but” Hermans emphasizes: “You have to properly map out the needs. There is no blueprint for the ideal park. The local scene often knows best what is needed. So go and talk to them. We are happy to visit them and map out their needs. We work a lot with area directors, so that’s going to be good”.